Allotments as we know them have their roots in the nineteenth century, when land was made available to the poor (the 'labouring population') for food growing.
The Small Holdings and Allotments Act came into force in 1908. But it wasn’t until the end of the First World War that land was made widely available to all and not just the poor, and this change was made primarily to assist returning servicemen.
The 1908 Act established the current framework whereby, if there is a demand for allotments within a district council's area then they have a statutory duty to provide a sufficient number of plots.
Subsequent Allotments Acts of 1922 and 1925 specifies that land purchased or appropriated by local authorities for use as allotments must not be disposed of without Ministerial consent.
(for more information see https://www.allotment-garden.org/allotment-information/allotment-history/)
Early this year we celebrated the 75thanniversary of VE day, and who would have thought that vegetable gardening played its part in that victory?
Food rationing had been introduced during WW2 to ensure that the available supplies were available to all. Supplies to Britain from overseas were limited because of U-Boat attacks which could have starved the country into submission.
The Dig for Victory campaign was introduced to encourage the entire country to use all available land - particularly gardens - to grow fruit and vegetables. This not only supplemented the nation’s diet but, growing our own food, also meant that there was more space available on merchant ships to transport weapons and other essential materials that were needed to keeping the armed forces supplied. In fact “the public were, in general, healthier and better fed from a nutritional standpoint than they are today”.
The rotation plan used during the campaign (for a 10 rod plot) produced average weekly yields of edible vegetables ranging between 11lbs in spring to 20lbs during winter..
The dig for victory campaign is remembered to this day and is celebrated and applied on allotments and garden vegetable plots across the UK.
For more information see the following links:
“Weeds are one of the most important things about gardens, and yet every single book on gardening that we have looked at merely dismisses them with a few words such as, “weeds should now be hoed up”, or “hand weed between rows during the spring”, or some such guff. These statements are all absurd.
Firstly most weeds can’t be hoed up, unless you propose to combine the hoeing with some more useful thing such as excavating for the foundations of a new house.
Secondly, the best time for weeding is not the spring but from early January to late December, which allows (perhaps unwisely) for a short Christmas holiday.”
(from Me and Frances by Anthony Armstrong, 1930
"All the books and instructions insist that the selection of the soil is the most important part of gardening. No doubt it is. But, if a man has already selected his own backyard before he opens the book, what remedy is there?
All the books lay stress on the need of "a deep, friable loam full of nitrogen." This I have never seen. My own plot of land I found on examination to contain nothing but earth. I could see no trace of nitrogen. I do not deny the existence of loam. There may be such a thing. But I am admitting now in all humility of mind that I don't know what loam is.
Last spring my fellow gardeners and I all talked freely of the desirability of "a loam." My own opinion is that none of them had any clearer ideas about it than I had. Speaking from experience, I should say that the only soils are earth, mud and dirt. There are no others."
(from Frenzied Fiction by Stephen Leacock (1918)
"It appears that the right time to begin gardening is last year. For many things it is well to begin the year before last. For good results one must begin even sooner.
Here, for example, are the directions, as I interpret them, for growing asparagus. Having secured a suitable piece of ground, preferably a deep friable loam rich in nitrogen, go out three years ago and plough or dig deeply. Remain a year inactive, thinking. Two years ago pulverize the soil thoroughly. Wait a year. As soon as last year comes set out the young shoots. Then spend a quiet winter doing nothing.
The asparagus will then be ready to work at this year...”
(from Frenzied Fiction by Stephen Leacock, 1918)
"Weeds are divided into three parts.
There is the green part which sticks up above the ground and is useful as indicating the fact that you have a weed; there is the root which you can by infinite labour and patience excavate to about two feet deep to the detriment of anything within a yard radius; and thirdly, there is the root below two feet which you invariably leave in the ground and which grows up again within a week – or in the case of the dandelion within four days. After about three or four feet in depth the dandelion’s root forks into two to make it more difficult.
The dandelion is called wurri-wurri in Australia. This is probably the other end of our dandelion."
(From Me and Frances by Antony Armstrong, 1930)
He began to dig at 9.30am. His allotment had been a good deal neglected, and the ground happened to be hard. Presently he found himself afflicted with acute sensations in the back. He begun to wonder what men on allotments did when they felt tired. A thought struck him—a reminiscence of his wide and curious reading. Observing a small girl seated on the railing which bordered the allotments he approached her. “Child,” said he kindly, “be good enough to go to the nearest public-house…
(Tales of Two People, Anthony Hope, 1907)
There is never a good time to start an allotment!
If you start in spring, the weeds get away from you faster than you can get to them, and each time you visit less of your plot is visible under the mounds of bind weed, carpets, of couch grass and thickets of bramble...
In the autumn, on the other hand, you’ll find that every visit reveals a new grim truth that the growth of summer had hidden. The cute brick path turns out to be slippery and even death trap when it rains. The shed roof leaks…
If you get your plot in the summer it will allow you into a full sense of security, so that instead of tearing almost everything out or down, as you’d intended, you lounge around harvesting perennial fruits planted by a previous incumbent…
And in winter… well, taking on an allotment in the dead months is a bit like being in a zombie movie - the whole place is dead, there seems to be nobody about to advise you and there are few suspicious looking twigs on an otherwise bare plot that could be plants, or weeds, or the gnarled fingers of a spectacularly gothic but poorly buried corpse…
(from “Minding my Peas and Cucumbers” a book about allotment life by Kay Sexton)
I went to my allotment last week and some soil was missing. I went there a few days later and some more of it had gone. I think I’m losing the plot!
I went back to my allotment a few weeks later and there was more of it there. The plot had thickened!
A few weeks after planting his lettuce seeds the grower was delighted to see some green growth emerging from the soil - but it was just the tip of the iceberg!
Q: What do you call it when worms take over the world?
A: Global Worming.
A new member of the Longcroft Allotment Association took over a run-down, weed-ridden plot. Just as he started to work the plot the vicar stopped by and blessed the plot - "may God work with you to transform this piece of land". Six months later, the plot was indeed transformed. The vicar noticed the rich and abundant plot and said "see what you have achieved with the help of God". "Yes,” replied the member, “but can you remember what it was like when God was looking after it on his own?".
Q. How do you turn ordinary clothes into allotment clothes?
A. Mix with compost.
Q: Why did the potatoes argue?
A: They couldn't see eye to eye.
Q. What do you call a cauliflower at the edge of your plot?
A. A border cauli!
If a plant is sad do other plants photosympathise with it?
Q: What do you get if you divide the circumference of a pumpkin by its diameter?
A: Pumpkin pi.
"…the most valuable of all arts will be the art of deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil"
“To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves”
"My rule of green thumb for mulch is to double my initial estimate of bags needed, and add three. Then I'll only be two bags short"
“A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows”
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”
“I like gardening. It’s a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself”
“There is nothing pleasanter than spading when the ground is soft and damp. You turn a spade full and then carefully knock all the lumps to pieces and you go on for hours without thinking about anything”
“An optimistic gardener is one who believes that whatever goes down must come up”
“When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant”
“Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years”
“To turn ordinary clothes into gardening clothes, simple mix with compost”
“With fronds like these, who needs anemones?”